By Sarah Reynolds for The Island Connection
Outgoing Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission Executive Director Tom O’Rourke was recently distinguished as a “Legend in the Field” of park and recreation administration by the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration. The honor was presented at the National Recreation and Park Association annual conference in September. For the honor, AAPRA selects individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the field of parks and recreation. The organization also interviews those individuals to share their professional insights, advice and philosophical beliefs on the field, through video posts on their website, aapra.org. As part of the honor, a video presentation created of O’Rourke’s reflection on his years in the field and his ideas for the future is now among the archives at the University of Utah. O’Rourke joined CCPRC as executive director in 2001, following the retirement of director Tim Eubanks, who had been with the agency since 1987. CCPRC’s executive director is responsible for the oversight of the 11,000-acre park system consisting of a wide array of parks, programs and services. O’Rourke became director of the renowned NRPA Directors School in February 2017. Established in 2008, the Directors School prepares new and prospective directors for the challenges of leading and managing a successful park and recreation agency. Former CCPRC executive director, O’Rourke is also a Professor of Practice at Clemson University in the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management Department, and also the Executive Director of The Parklands Foundation of Charleston County. Prior to joining CCPRC, O’Rourke was the director of the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department and also established and served as the manager of the Sports and Recreation Division for Seamon Whiteside and Associates, a landscape architect and engineering firm. He graduated from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania in 1978. Transitioning into O’Rourke’s former role as executive director is CCPRC’s former Chief Operating Officer David Bennett, who has been with CCPRC since 1987. Bennett became CCPRC’s executive director in March 2017. The AAPRA is a group of distinguished practitioners and educators who are leaders in the field of park and recreation. Established in 1980, the academy was formed to advance knowledge related to the administration of recreation and parks; encourage scholarly efforts by both practitioners and educators to enhance the practice of park and recreation administration; promote broader public understanding of the importance of parks and recreation to the public good; and conduct research, publish scholarly papers and/or sponsor seminars related to the advancement of park and recreation administration. For more information, visit aapra.org.
For more information on CCPRC, visit CharlestonCountyParks.com or call 843.795.4386.